TORO! :: bull by the horns

an online compendium of culture and commentary

huzzah: megan garber tells it like it is

Posted by rollinsloane on 7 March 2008

In the meta-media industry of watchdogging the watchdogs, perhaps no single institution offers more valuable analysis than the Columbia Journalism Review, self-described as yes, a watchdog, but ultimately a caring 0friend to the multi-faceted industry that is the press.  And within CJR, perhaps no single observer takes the media to task with as much panache as Megan Garber.  Her salty, nuanced tirades against inanity and sensationalism express such frustration and disbelief that editors and producers responsible should want for sleep the night after a mention.

Garber rolls her eyes at the New York Times‘ “proud tradition of publishing stories about Trends You Didn’t Realize Were Trends Until the Times Let You Know They Were.”

Yesterday the Grey Lady cast her storied gaze on a trend of a More Serious Variety: drunkorexia. (No, not a typo: again, drunkorexia.) The “phenomenon” is exactly what the compound name implies: anorexics consuming alcohol—either “to calm down before eating or to ease the anxiety of having indulged in a meal.” Now, to be clear, “drunkorexia is not an official medical term,” the piece points out. “But it hints at a troubling phenomenon in addiction and eating disorders.”

Garber identifies the true trend at work here — “trendinanity” — although the scolding is a light as its subject matter.  She saves true vitriol for the classically poor-taste “Women Are Dim” article that the Washington Post featured last week.  Charlotte Allen’s piece was apparently intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but Garber doesn’t let even mild intentions slide.

Well, that explains it! Her piece isn’t pandering to silly stereotypes; it’s transcending them. But in such a cleverly subtle way as to be entirely undetectable: it’s so meta that you can’t even tell it’s meta! Allen’s tongue is so firmly in cheek, apparently, she could choke herself.

But irony’s a tricky little weapon; if you’re going to use it, of course, you have to brandish it brazenly enough for people to know it’s there. Allen, alas, did not. Believe me, I looked—Feminine Empathy and whatnot—for some hint of the sarcasm that would redeem both the article and its author. I found none.

Someone’s got to the patrol the popular press, and I for one am glad we’ve got Megan Garber to do it.

— Sloane 


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